Hanoi, Vietnam, A City of Many Tales

Hanoi, Vietnam, A City of Many Tales

To say Hello! in Vietnamese is xin chao (sin jow) and with over 5 million people,you will get many chances along your travels in Hanoi!

Hanoi is the beautiful capital city of Vietnam. It is known for its amazing ancient architecture and rich culture and just like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi has had influences from Southeast Asia, China, and France.  Its rich and diverse history have made the city what it is today. It is also a connection point for many visitors as they explore the stunning varied landscapes of Vietnam.


Along the way, the city landscape has also expanded to become a manufacturing giant in Vietnam. Today some of the top manufacturers in world use Hanoi for manufacturing their goods. Well known companies like Samsung, Ford, LG, Honda, GE, Proctor and Gamble, and many more occupy their industrial parks. It is also the home to some of  Vietnam’s many textile manufacturing companies.

Expansion is present throughout the city with its current drive to become even bigger in manufacturing. Incredible innovation and growth are happening here while in North America we are seeing over 1/3 decline in manufacturing locally in the last decade. 

In 2023, Hanoi has begun construction on 34 new industrial parks and is upgrading the 70 existing ones including all infrastructure that is required.

That is over a 50 % expansion.

Now I just hope that we will not be a part of that expansion eating all of their great food here and hope our shopping habits would not expand by 50 % when we were there. Too many good deals to pass up and the cultural handcrafted goods and local foods are amazing to bring home.

 As many ancient cities, it has not always been that way. Hanoi’s history goes back to prehistoric times since the beginning of the Stone age. Clans occupied the area and is believed that Hanoi has had inhabitants for over 4000 years.

It isn’t until the 3rd century BC, that urban areas like Hanoi (Tonki)were created into a more structured communal living. Every village had public rice fields with a mixture of some being owned privately and others common ownership. The communes were created in the common ownership areas and for the good of all people.  It created a sense of being a part of a unit in a collective way rather than individuality.


Peasants were able to till on the public rice fields and enjoyed their crops and only had to contribute part of their yields to the commune’s public funds. Each person was able to contribute to the well being of the people within the commune and this helped to improve agricultural productivity as well. 

Although agricultural was the village’s main economy, handicrafts and goods were traded throughout the area which helped villages to be more successful and increase in size.

When the state was established closer to the 2nd century BC , the rice fields in the village came under the ownership of the state. The villages still had the right to possess and distribute these lands as long as taxes were paid to the state. This allowance of distribution lead to more private land ownership and a decrease in common ownership areas. This was the precursor to the birth of communism as they came under Chinese rule at this time.

Hanoi was used as a political center and eventually lead to being named the main capital of Vietnam then called Thang Long, which translated is the Rising Dragon.

I think that was an appropriate name to what its future would hold.  It has gone under many name changes until French colonialism where the name Hanoi was eventually given to the area. The name Hanoi means between two rivers which is aptly named as it is located by the Duong River and the Red River.

Until French colonialism in the middle of the 19th century, Hanoi was still village orientated and mainly agricultural including handicrafts but was also a marketplace. Grand changes were in store for the city at that time.

During this French occupation, it was decided that the north of Vietnam would become a manufacturing and industrial hub while the south of Vietnam would stay agricultural. This would result in a major shift in the city itself. The French would not only want to redesign the city to a more organized urban center, they were looking to create a city of the future. It was the Parisification of Hanoi at this time.


With the reorganization of the city by the French while trying to keep the city’s authenticity, it made it a destination to visit, tourism became an important part of the economy.  The city was built with the French architectural influences and still remain today as in Ho Chi Minh City.

Some of the main industries that the French developed were mainly for French export. Some of these industries were mines and sugar. Although Hanoi was a concentration of industries and production, this did not mean the cities inhabitants benefited from it. This was not the case unfortunately as many times with occupation it is for the good of the country occupying but not the country itself.

However, due to this increase in production, the city’s population also began to increase. Within 70 years it was over 5 times larger. Just like in Ho Chi Minh, the French then built infrastructure to be able to sustain the industrial and manufacturing enterprises located in the city. Tram ways, railways, roadways and more would pave the way to even greater growth.

The French would eventually leave North Vietnam after the conclusion of the First Indochina war in 1954. The day of October 10, 1954 would be known as Liberation Day. This would lead to Hanoi being under communist rule where it would continue to be an economic hub as a direct result of being the manufacturing and textile hub of the North while occupied by France. The city would see some of its most significant economic growth in the 60’s. Due to its socialist state and being tightly controlled, its position of the city in the international markets would still be limited. The population continued its natural growth to over a million people at that time until 1985.

The same could not be said for the south as it remained more agricultural which led to a distinct disparity between North and South Vietnam that existed for many years.

In 1986, Vietnam lead to a shift towards a market-oriented socialist economy. The freer market encouraged private enterprise and lead to fostering international trade.

This has led to an increase in GRDP (regional domestic product) of 11% on average strengthening its central position. It is now estimated that the city has about 45% of the country’s economy. The city has diversified from manufacturing to many new sectors including hi tech, knowledge-based industries and especially tourism while continuing to protect its historical core.

The communal village of pre Hanoi is now a bustling metropolis with a strong economic foothold with international reach.

Although you will still see rice production it is now on a large scale, it is aimed at producing a sustainable rice production to meet the growing domestic needs as well as exporting to international markets. If you travel to the outer villages there are still some small farms that you will see the local farming using more rural ways which is where Hanoi began its roots.

From Agricultural Roots to Manufacturing Giant,  we loved visiting the transformational city of Hanoi.


For anyone coming to visit Vietnam, the American Dollar is widely accepted here but there are many ATMs to safely withdraw the local Vienamese currency called the dong. 

Enjoy this amazing city, people, markets, and architecture to make many memories.

Stay curious fellow Nomads!

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